One of the main discussions leading into training camp for the 2014-15 Tennessee Titans: the appearance of the running back depth chart. How does a team order a unit that doesn’t consist of a true do-it-all running back? Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, Bishop Sankey, Jackie Battle, Leon Washington, Quinn Johnson, Colin Mooney…
Throw another name who’ll compete to replace one of those players in that mix: Antonio Andrews. Andrews is an undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky University. From WKU Sports website:
…a 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl invitee – led the SBC in rushing yards and the nation in All-Purpose yardage for the second consecutive season while also breaking his own school single-season rushing record in 2013. In 2013, he ran for 1,730 yards with a league-best 16 touchdowns while also leading the SBC in scoring with eight points per game. He finished the regular season with the nation’s longest active streak of 100+ yard all-purpose games (25), second longest 100-yard rushing game streak (11) and set school records for 100 yard games in a season (11), career (21), and was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back – the only semifinalist from a Non-AQ conference.
Some Tennesseans are familiar with Andrews . Before 2013, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky were rivals in the Sun Belt Conference. In 2013, Middle Tennessee joined Conference-USA. Andrews looks to join Bobby Rainey as former Hilltoppers who’ve went on to enjoy NFL careers.
In this interview, Titan Sized editor…and Middle Tennessee State alumnus…Joshua Huffman asks Wave the Red Towel editor Fletcher Keel six questions about the undrafted free agent. WTRT is the Western Kentucky University sports blog of the FanSided Network. These questions concern his strengths, weaknesses, character, and more.
Titan Sized: Joshua Huffman (editor)
Wave the Red Towel: Fletcher Keel (editor)
Titan Sized: Give us a brief breakdown of Antonio Andrew’s career at Western Kentucky
Wave the Red Towel: Antonio Andrews was very much an overnight sensation. He sat for two years under Bobby Rainey (now with Tampa Bay), and after Rainey left, there was a question as to who would take over the running back position, and going into and after the 2012 Spring Game, it wasn’t out of the question that the position would be anchored by three different guys. Then the Hilltoppers played Kentucky in Lexington, and that’s where he emerged – 34 touches for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns. That’s where he really established himself as a workhorse. And the rest, as they say, is history – he was a handful of yards shy from breaking Barry Sanders record in 2012, and last year finished top 5 in the nation in all purpose yards.
Titan Sized: NFL.com Nolan Nawrocki projected him as a Round 4-5 pick. His main criticisms involved his subpar pass-protection skills, inability to handle the football, and overall speed and athleticism that’s largely evidenced with a 4.82-yard 40-yard dash and 1.81-second 10-yard split. What has Andrews done to address these issues during his time at Western Kentucky?
Wave the Red Towel: Andrews isn’t a pass protector – or, at least, he certainly wasn’t used as such at WKU. He was the triple threat guy; he ran well, he had good hands out of the back field, and returned kicks. The other criticisms are, unfortunately, valid, although it should be noted that his nearly 5-second 40 time shouldn’t be that off putting. He has never been regarded as a fast back, but there’s something about him when he has the ball, he just makes guys miss. So the speed shouldn’t be looked on that much. His fumble problems did plague him throughout his tenure as #1 back, but many of his fumbles came at the beginning of the year, and got more comfortable with the ball as the year ran on. Andrews didn’t do anything, that I can recall, to specifically address these issues other than let his numbers speak for themselves. This is one of those guys who had a “bad game” when he would record “just” 100 yards.
Titan Sized: What are Andrews’ best attributes that will help him succeed at the professional level?
Wave the Red Towel: He’s a work horse; he simply doesn’t tire out. He is in the back field down after down after down, and is reliable in any position on the field. He can return kicks, has good hands when he needs to catch the ball, and he makes guys miss. He can be used as an open field back, or a redzone back. He’s going to put everything into making sure he makes the best of his touches, something that he learned from Rainey (who spent a full year on the Ravens practice squad before making an NFL team, the Browns, only to be traded to Tampa where he finally had a breakout game).
Titan Sized: Some Titans fans are upset with the team after they drafted Taylor Lewan and Zach Mettenberger. Both players have character concerns. Does Andrews have any character flaws that we should know about?
Wave the Red Towel: Absolutely not. Not that many people care or take notice of WKU football in the first place, but Andrews never once was flagged for excessive celebration, suspended for a game, or had any run ins with Bowling Green’s finest. We are talking about a guy who comes from an Army Serviceman, is from Fort Campbell, KY, was originally committed to Air Force and salutes after every touchdown he scores as an homage to his family. Titans fans are going to like this kid a whole lot.
Titan Sized: Is Andrews involved with any charity work or other goodwill endeavors?
Wave the Red Towel: No, but he certainly is the type of guy who would look to start something when he gets the name to do so. I think he tried to start some sort of charity with his aforementioned salutes after touchdowns, but I don’t think it ever came to fruition.
Titan Sized: Anything else you’d like to add about Andrews
Wave the Red Towel: Aside from my hometown Falcons, the Titans were the second team I wanted to land Andrews, and it had been well speculated that it would have happened. Titans fans got to see him on their own turf when UK came to LP Field this past August, and that was one of his “bad” games, only hitting 90+ yards. I’m not sure how WKU is perceived in the Music City, but for Bowling Green citizens, Nashville is a destination, and it’s going to be awesome to see Andrews play, essentially, right in his back yard. Andrews might be a work in progress to become a very good NFL back, but all of the potential is there. And, if a player or two (God forbid, of course) go down, Andrews might see his number get called and impress an awful amount of people.
Want more information about Andrews? Check out these resources from Wave the Red Towel:
Wave the Red Towel (Front Page)
Want to contact either of these editors? Contact them via Twitter